Bikes and Cars

I’ve long been meaning to do a strip about the incompatibility of bikes and cars, and Earth Day week seemed as good a time as any. Besides, it was either this or making fun of the clown car that is the field of Republican presidential candidates, and I’m not quite up for that yet.

I dream of a dedicated bike path between me and the Post Office. I would do everything by bike if it didn’t involve competing with 5,000-pound missiles. Let’s not even get into what those missile operators are doing while they’re supposed to be watching the road. A friend told me he saw someone crocheting on the highway during stop-and-go traffic the other day.

My truck grille-drawing skills seem to have improved since I moved to Texas. Clearly there’s some R. Crumb influence creeping in here too. I named the truck in the last panel a Ford Glacier because we’re always naming giant vehicles after things we’re destroying (See also: the Tundra).


  • HighArka

    Should people who can’t afford to live closer to their jobs pay increased payroll taxes in order to fund special roads for people who enjoy riding their bicycles to Whole Foods?

    • Alan Barta

      No, HighArka, you are ALREADY paying higher taxes for not installing bike and pedestrian accommodations, which actually cost almost nothing, just paint street appropriately after they repave it, which has to be done anyway. By comparison, dedicated bikeways including land acquisition cost on average only $500,000/mile to install, whereas interstate highways cost $10,000,000/mile. More money goes to construction workers for bikeways than does for highway, too. The US government spent $1 trillion on highways in the last decade, and that doesn’t include state matching from income and property taxes. In other words, you are getting ripped off royally for highways that exclude bicyclists, and pay an additional penalty for ignoring vulnerable users.

      • HighArka

        Are you of the opinion that motorized vehicle travel by interstate highway, motorized vehicle travel by city surface street, and bicycle travel, are interchangeable? No. Bicycle travel is for the privileged few who have the free time, wardrobe and employment and appearance flexibility, and health privileges to bike places.

        For those who have to show up at work exactly on time in a uniform, and who can’t be sweaty or disheveled from a bike ride, and who have to make it to another job within a certain amount of time, bicycling is impossible.

        Check your privilege. Biking is great for upper middle class university students, “interns,” and bookstore-cruising latte-sippers in Portlandia. It is great for people who live in safe, low-crime areas where they will not be threatened with violence or harassment for being exposed to the elements, or other people, without a layer of automobile in between them and other people. It is not appropriate for the rushing poor, the physically vulnerable, or people living in low-density or dangerous environments.

        Making working people pay for special non-motorized lanes for those who have the privilege of making convenience-based choices to cruise around town is theft. I completely support you having bike lanes as long as YOU pay for them, instead of robbing the paychecks of working mothers who have to go from a retail job to a waitress job in a 30 minute gap, change uniforms, and NOT get groped, grimy, or have their hair blown into a huge mess by trying to bike across the County.

        And those same people shouldn’t have to work more hours to pay for your special bike lanes, either.

        • Alan Barta

          It’s one misconception after another with you, HighArca. There are one billion bicyclists in the world, all poor except for a tiny percentage of spandex privileged, second only to walkers. Motorists only number in the low hundred millions, yet they get all the funding. Not democratic at all, total favoritism. Cyclists see less than 1% of budget, because they don’t need much, just properly apportioned streets as already required by law. Wheelchair users get more attention because of the ADA, which demands curb relief and ramps as well as, duh, bikeways. In many cases you can arrange around motoring with several different, less costly modalities: bike, bus, cab, subway, train. This way you’re not victim to the average $7600/year cost of car ownership, and, who’d have thought, might actually get around faster than driving. I routinely beat bus and traffic into city center, as do the typical 600,000 bike commuters into NYC every day who can’t afford and don’t want to drive. Though inconvenient, never had a problem refreshing in a lavatory, equally safe to other ablutions. A decent new bike cost only $300, not on average $25,000, 83 times more, plus insurance, license, mandatory maintenance, registration, and taxes. They collect castoff bikes and ship them to Africa so grateful rural villagers can commute to cities, earn a living, and improve their lives. Best part is you’re 20 times safer cycling than driving. The fewer motorists you allow, the less crime and urban terror, which has been proven in cities around the world.

          • HighArka

            foremost, that your Cycling Monthly gush report was accurate
            about the readership-stoking estimation of “one billion”–assuming
            that without question–it is highly disingenuous of you to use
            “worldwide” bicyclists statistics to justify tax policy in a modern
            industrial nation.

            You live in a giant concrete tumor that survives
            by financially exploiting hundreds of other states and nations, in order to
            suck up an egregious portion of the world’s energy, food, and other resources.
            In order to obtain the kind of vulgar financial concentration you have there,
            you need to level the natural resources and disperse the populations of many
            other places, including even sister states in your own “nation,”
            whose populations have to travel a much greater distance than your commute to
            “city center.” Your fantasies can only apply to such a narcissistic
            bubble, because for many other people, having a pickup truck to drive fifty
            miles to a job site, laden with old blankets and tools, is a necessity in order
            to eat each month. People who clean houses, fix toilets, care for and transport
            infants and children and the elderly, and many other occupations, do not have
            the option at all of “choosing” to bicycle.

            There are also billions of people in the world who
            are not surrounded by a massive police force, with a lot of witnesses nearby,
            on their commute to work. Many people work at night, and many people work in
            rural areas.

            Ironically, it is the festering sore of places
            like New York City that have extracted so many resources from the rest of the
            world via the FIRE sector that peripheral wastelands are unable to afford
            public transportation. Check your privilege: most people do not buy a
            $25K car.
            They drive a hand-me-down vehicle with no warranty, 50-150K
            miles on it, and it was bought off Craigslist for $3,000 cash. The statistics
            you’re citing from NPR’s Marketplace only apply to
            privileged white people who think that a new Toyota Prius is a comparatively
            cheap car. Obviously, you’ve never lived in an area where the local high school
            track coach’s $22K Camaro is the fanciest vehicle in town.

            Now let’s talk public transportation: it may have
            escaped your notice inside your cosmopolitan FIRE bubble, but many people find
            public transportation a rapey, violent place. Particularly if they’re not a
            young, wealthy, fast-moving person traveling to the financial district with
            hundreds of their kin during peak business hours.

            People traveling bad routes, who aren’t able to
            physically protect themselves, who don’t want to get shot or stalked or shouldered
            constantly, or who just don’t want to be surrounded by a dozen aggressive,
            unfamiliar poor men having an argument about something scary, every time they need
            to carry their cashed payroll check home, understandably prefer an alternative,
            and always will. And when you’re asking
            those people to reduce their take-home pay even further, so that special new “proportionately
            cheaper” lanes can be added to make it easier for rich white MBAs to get to NASDAQ
            in a “greener” fashion, well…you’re definitely an American.

          • Alan Barta

            HA, your paranoid fantasies blind you to the facts. I’ve ridden a bike through country and city for more than 10,000 hours and 100,000 miles for 40 years; have been assaulted by criminals and hit by motorists, both biking and driving, but I avoid high risk situations. A billion, according to UN and WHO, ride bikes, the most popular conveyance after sneakers. The vast majority of America’s 60 million bicyclists (BRAT official figure for 2013 and more now), like all other demographics, are not rich, though do represent 1/3 of the nation’s number of cars owned, despite being seriously underserved. Privileged wealth, by definition, means a small minority, and they drive $50,000+ vehicles or own fleets. I lowballed $25,000 as the mean msrp: USA Today reported $33,560 as of this May, 2015. A small minority is driving 12-year-old, $3,000 clunkers, because an average of 15,000 miles/year means vehicles are retired after 8 years. Sure, many just lease or nurse along ownership to reduce costs, but $8,698/year is AAA’s current official average annual expenditure, all fees inclusive including fuel. You can have your payroll checked directly deposited to a bank of your choice. Everybody has the option to choose bicycling for part or whole trips, though it may be inconvenient given your situation. Commuting to work only represents 15% of trips (45% errands and shopping, 27% recreational).

            You are perfectly entitled to hate spandex stock traders zipping through traffic while you painfully and slowly pilot your rusted pickup truck with no brakes through narrow lanes negotiating traffic snarl, because they are mean manipulators, not because you imagine a bicyclist means stock broker. There is no middle class anymore, only filthy rich, lower class, poor, and slaves. Bicyclists are not your problem, have nothing to do with social injustice, and would be glad if you take your medication. Automakers, Big Oil, state revenuers, and wasteful legislators are the bad actors. Sounds like you’re not even paying income and sales taxes, so what’s your gripe? The small 0.5% of road budget that addresses cycling?

          • HighArka

            (Alan, I replied to this several days ago, but the reply isn’t showing up any more. Did it get deleted? I dunno. If this reply sticks, just google my name, and one of my more recent blog entries on bikes contains the text of the reply.)

          • HighArka

            (By the way, you’ll notice that Jen’s cartoon specifies in cities. If you’re interested in donating all your assets for the next two hundred years to urbanize every acre of the American continent, maybe then it would be appropriate to talk about adding bike lanes there.)

          • Alan Barta

            No need for cycling hysteria. Federal laws specifies equal accommodations for cyclists, motorists and walkers on roads that exceed 24 feet in width, which rules out most neighborhood side streets and rural byways. Cities and suburbs are where non-motorists find most difficulties. Often it comes down to “pinch points” where too many motorists are forced over a narrow bridge or through a tight intersection. About 25% of nation’s road outright ban cycling, usually interstates and state highways, but these, by law, cannot impede non-motorists, who must be provided nearly parallel alternatives. Only about 5% of nation’s roads need upgrade to comply with these 25 year old laws, and then it is only correctly re-striping when next they are paved. In a few instances, they’ve elected to construct costly bike paths, though that is sometimes warranted given no other reasonable alternative. Bikeways do reclaim lost rail rights of way, thus preserve them for future use, but they seldom go all the way to destinations, so roads still must comply to CFRs.

  • ct

    @HighArka:disqus Taxes, sure. “Payroll taxes”, perhaps not (aren’t “payroll taxes” specifically those for SSI/SDI etc?). I’m not going to bike 50 miles each way to and from work myself, but if thousands, or even just hundreds, of people in that 50 mile span bike instead of drive, my drive will be so much nicer, that it’s worth coughing up a bit more.

  • Alan Barta

    Jen, bicyclists everywhere salute you! You kept your promise. Andy Singer would be pleased. Labann will honor you in his blog. My tiny state has over 100 miles of bike paths, but they don’t reach every destination. According to CFRs (federal laws), state’s must make every street safe for cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users, too. When they don’t, states are punished with fines levied and funding withheld. Likewise, states are fined for poor air quality. Governors don’t care, because it’s your money; they just raise taxes. So, by NOT having bike lanes, paths and sharrows, taxpayers are losers. Every $1 spent on bike infrastructure returns $20 in federal grants, health benefits, improved productivity, penalty avoidance, reduced insurance premiums, and such.

    About the limit of any bike commute is 30 miles one way, which a good cyclist can do in under 2 hours. I’d do roundtrips of 64 miles once a week, 24 miles four days a week . Also drove part way, then did 8, 12 or 20. Took bike to work and rode during lunch hour, too. Bike commuting more efficiently fills your exercise quota than driving to a gym because it is also transportation. Most back roads are empty 90% of the time, so it’s just a matter of learning when and where to ride, which those of us who do would be happy to share.

  • William Mullane

    As a fortunate person who bike commutes every day, mostly on a Green Belt, I can say with some authority that you captured the situation perfectly. I always try to tell people how different, and insane, the world looks from the seat of a bike. Now I’ll just show them your cartoon. Thanks

  • Alan Barta

    Matt Groening bunny and R Crumb trucking, two cartoonists who are Grateful Dead fans but not gratuitously deceased according to internet hoaxes.

    • Douglas Waltz

      R Crumb hates The Grateful Dead

  • Douglas Waltz

    I ride my bike to and from work five days a week. When the snow gets too deep to make the 20 mile round trip journey I do ride my bike to the bus station and they have a rack for my bike to get me closer to work. I ride a single speed Huffy, nothing fancy, and no uniform. I loved the cartoon but I am so tired of some commentator who has nothing better to do than bad mouth those of us that ride because their family can only afford a single vehicle and can’t afford two cars. Just tiresome.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.